Redfin’s recent study on reforming zoning regulations to permit higher density housing units indicated that 53% of 3,000 survey respondents would choose to block zoning modifications despite knowing that more multi-family and high density housing are critical to solving affordability issues.

Breaking down responses concerning changes to zoning regulations by race, income level, and generation offers us key insights. In terms of race,

  • African Americans voted 39% for changing zoning regulation to allow more high-density housing and 39% voted to block any changes to zoning regulations.
  • Caucasian Americans voted 56% against changing zoning and 23% voted to change zoning regulations to allow more high-density housing.
  • East Asian/Asian Americans voted 49% against and 32% for changing zoning regulations to permit high-density housing.
  • Latino/Hispanic Americans voted 46% against and 32% for changing zoning regulations to open up options for high-density housing.

Looking at income levels, one might expect that higher income buyers and sellers would be more opposed to high-density housing units. Not necessarily so, actually. Yes, all income levels are more opposed to revamping zoning to allow more high-density units but only slightly.

  • Household incomes under $100,000 – 51% oppose; 26% support
  • Household incomes $100,000-$199,999 – 56% oppose; 28% support
  • Household incomes $200,000+ – 55% oppose; 29% support

Factoring race and income together, African American support for zoning changes to allow more high-density housing units drops. For African American households with incomes of $200,000 and more, 54% oppose modifying zoning regulations to allow more density instead of the 39%-39% split when income was not a factor.

Redfin’s chief economist, Daryl Fairweather, said, “People who don’t want dense housing in their neighborhood often reason that they don’t want to see the character of their neighborhood change…Minorities, however, who oppose dense zoning may be opposed to the gentrification that accompanies dense luxury condominiums and apartments.”

Looking at generational differences concerning zoning, people 65+years are four times as likely to oppose high-density housing, 64% against and 15% for, than their counterparts. People 25 years and younger are the only age group that supports higher density zoning regulations, 41% for and 36% against.

Fairweather speculated, “In places like Minnesota and Oregon that have already banned single-family zoning, we may see white-flight to areas where single-family homes remain segregated from multi-family homes.”

In cities that are downsizing like Des Moines, one of the Midwest’s fastest growing cities, more land is being dedicated exclusively to single-family detached houses as specified by the Des Moines 2040 Plan that fast-tracks the approval process. There, single-family homes must be built on lots larger than 7,500 feet, must be 1,150 square feet for a one-story unit, must abide by strict building requirements, must use a strict set of materials, and must have a full basement, single-car garage and driveway. Additionally, homes must be built closer to city transit and in the middle of neighborhoods rather than in suburbs/exurbs to curb housing development in prime farmland.

For homes/buildings that do not meet the 2040 Plan, owners of those homes/buildings will be required to go through traditional design and approval reviews by neighborhood councils that can take 90+ days.

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